More than a decade ago the UK head of EDF, the French power company, promised that Britons would be cooking their Christmas turkeys with power from a new nuclear plant in 2017. Three Christmases after that deadline, Britons are still waiting; Hinkley Point C, the Somerset plant in question, is not expected to start providing electricity until 2025. The 2017 pledge has haunted EDF ever since, and dogged the government’s attempts to formulate a coherent energy policy. Britain’s commitment to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 has only added to the urgency for a new approach. There are good reasons in principle to back the construction of a new plant. Britain generates about 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear, but nearly half of the stations will shut by 2025. Sizewell, like Hinkley Point, would generate 7 per cent of the country’s electricity and would help to plug the gap in power supplies. It would also provide low-carbon baseload electricity, especially at a time when technologies such as carbon capture and long-term battery storage have not yet become commercially viable. Ministers, however, should proceed with caution. The government cannot afford a repeat of what happened with Hinkley Point. Thanks to spiralling construction costs and a controversial support system that guaranteed EDF and its junior partner, China’s CGN, a steep price for the electricity, it has become one of the most expensive nuclear reactor projects in the world. Under the 2013 deal, the coalition government agreed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for the electricity — at the time, close to double the wholesale price. The price is also indexed to inflation. Since then, the cost of renewables has plummeted, making Hinkley Point look even more expensive. EDF should demonstrate how it will apply the lessons learned from Hinkley Point. Two of its other plants which are using the same design — in Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland — have also been dogged by repeated setbacks.
FT 14th Dec 2020 read more »
Robert Goodwill – Conservative MP, former environment minister and a member of the environmental audit committee. A commitment to nuclear in the ten-point plan was therefore welcome. But a dose of realism is also necessary. Small and advanced modular reactors such as those Rolls-Royce are developing, will, in time, be fantastic examples of British innovation and expertise. But they are still at an early developmental stage and are unlikely to be ready until at least the 2030s. We must get on with building large scale nuclear. There is only one other nuclear power station currently on the launch slipway — Sizewell C. As an exact replica of Hinkley Point C, it is “oven ready” to coin a phrase. It is great news that the prime minister fired the starting gun for this project yesterday. At a time when the UK desperately needs employment, large-scale infrastructure projects like Sizewell C will be a shot in the arm for the economy with 25,000 jobs including 1,500 apprenticeships across the country.
Times 15th Dec 2020 read more »